Sigh. LOUD sigh.
This was a game Oklahoma City needed. Coming off two straight heartbreakers, the best medicine to heal the wounds from the road was sure to be the start of a nice four-game homestand. But it was not to be. Chicago pummeled the Thunder in the fourth quarter, outscoring OKC 28-20 in the final frame to win their fourth straight, 96-86.
What disappoints me most isn’t just the loss. It’s the way it all went down. With 8:30 left in the fourth, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook checked back in with OKC trailing by eight. It was time for the two studs to pick up a team that was struggling offensively. They didn’t. Let me put it this way: The Thunder didn’t make their first basket until there was 3:53 left in the final frame and started out the quarter 0-14. Not awesome.
KD hit a couple shots late after the Thunder fell behind by 16 to make it all feel a little bit better. But still, the offensive ineptitude can’t be ignored. After the Bulls put in 56 first half points, OKC locked down holding Chicago to just 12 points in the third. It felt like last time. The Thunder was going to tighten the screws, make some plays in the fourth and take care of business. But in order to do such a thing, you have to put the ball in the basket. The Thunder shot 36.9 percent from the field. That’s not putting the ball in the basket. Jeff Green was stellar, but for the most part, if Kevin Durant doesn’t play like his normal self, this team isn’t scoring and sometimes winning. And that’s not encouraging.
You can’t expect Durant to notch 30 points every night on like six shots. Heck, Durant had 28 and 11, but it came on 7-19 shooting 12 of those came when things were pretty much academic. Like I said, Jeff Green was excellent scoring 24 on 9-19 shooting along with nine rebounds, but the rest of the team scored only 34 points on, wait for it, 15 of 46 shooting. That’s 32 percent. Yikes and yikes.
OKC plays pretty good offense at times. But those times are when they’re making jumpers. If the shots aren’t falling, everything is elementary offensively. The ball movement lacks. The cutting isn’t there. The aggressive goes out the window. I actually found it a bit curious that Russell Westbrook only played 28 minutes, mainly because these are the types of nights he can step up and fill the void on the offensive end. It’s not like he was doing bad. He had 10 points on 5-11 and seven assists. He hit a few jumpers, went to the hole and was finishing relatively well. Yet Scott Brooks opted for the more pass oriented Eric Maynor for extended stretches. And while Maynor is an excellent backup point man, he’s not someone that can carry you offensively, especially when the guys he’s passing to aren’t making their shots.
- OKC turned it over only 14 times. For them, that’s pretty good. Again, it just comes down to not making shots.
- Jeff Green had his first 20-point game since Jan. 6 against New Orleans and only his seventh of the season. But in his last eight Green is averaging 15.1 ppg and 8.1 rpg. So maybe he’s turning the corner and breaking out of this funk. Jeff Green is a good basketball player. And this team needs his production.
- Just like last time, Thabo started the second half on Rose. In the first, Rose had 10 points on 5-12 shooting and four assists. In the second, he had 16 on 8-11. Oops. But to be fair to Thabo, Eric Maynor defended Rose for a good while in the fourth. And when Rose is on with that jumper, he’s pretty stinking awesome.
- I’m pretty spotty on my Spanish, but I think Gilbert Flores said, “THAT’S Thunder basketball!” at least four times during his time on air. Grant Long only had a chance to sneak one in there tonight. It was an off night for everybody.
- It’s a bad sign when KD misses three straight free throws. Which is exactly what he did to start the game.
- Chicago shot 13-28 from 16 to 23 feet tonight. That’s outstanding. And OKC went 9-20 from the same distance, which isn’t bad by any means. The big difference is that the Thunder went 2-12 from inside 10 feet and 0-5 from 10 to 15 feet. Yuck.
- In stretches, OKC was excellent defensively. Like the aforementioned third period. But in the first quarter after allowed 28 points in the first eight and half minutes, the Thunder didn’t give up a point for the last three and half minutes and forced Chicago into four straight turnovers. But the Bulls hit 45.6 percent from the field and oh yeah, outrebounded OKC 53-40. But then again, when your opponent misses 53 shots, there are lots of opportunities to rebound.
- Taj Gibson had 15 boards for Chicago tonight.
- Nenad Krstic’s first half line: Nine minutes, 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 blocks, 0 shots, three fouls and one turnover. But Krstic came out and showed a nice post move, took a charge and hit a jumper to start the second half. But he finished with just two rebounds. How does that happen?
- Grant Long had Aaron Brooks and Tony Parker as All-Star reserves. And did not have Chris Paul on the roster. No comment.
- Again, Jeff Green was really good. Did it feel like early on he had made it a point to be aggressive? His first shot he didn’t hesitate at all and knocked it down. I think mentally, he was really pushing himself to break out of this slump. He was a minus-18 for the game, but I think that was more coincidental because he happened to be on the floor for both of Chicago’s big runs. Don’t let the plus/minus fool you. Without Uncle Jeff, OKC loses this one by a lot more than 10.
I want to wash this one out of my mouth and just say, “Oh well, bad night.” But there’s really no excuse for it. You were rested. You should’ve been hungry. You should’ve been focused. Granted, the Bulls have been ripping through the West lately, but this isn’t a great team. This is only the third three-game losing streak of the season and it really needs to stop RIGHT NOW. Too bad Denver is coming in Friday.
Again, these are the pains of youth. There isn’t that championship focus every night. But that’s no excuse to not show up, especially in your own building. You had a sellout crowd waiting to explode and you dropped a dud in the fourth. There are some fairly serious offensive issues with this team right now, and you can’t always rely on good jumpshooting to carry you. I think the players are there to get it done. This team didn’t win 24 games and get into the playoff discussion by sucking. They’ll shake this off. This is just a bummer stretch of losses. But it may get worse with another good team looming.
Next up: Denver at home Friday.